A jury box

Governor Jerry Brown is considering a bill that would make California the first state to allow noncitizens who are in the country legally to serve on juries. The state Legislature has already approved Assembly Bill 1401, which would allow any legal immigrant to be called up as a juror. Supporters say that including legal residents would make juries more representative of the U.S. population. But critics say noncitizens shouldn’t be able to decide whether U.S. citizens are guilty or not in the court of law.

Bob Wieckowski, assemblyman (D) representing the 25th District
Rocky Chavez, assemblyman representing the 76th District

  • thucy

    After watching the debacle of the Trayvon Martin jury (granted, not a Calif. case), I would gladly welcome non-citizen jurors. Having worked alongside and supervised and served immigrants, I would feel confident that they could assess a case both rationally AND empathetically.

    I find that many immigrants are actually less racist and homophobic than the average Calif. juror. And as people well-acquainted with social injustice due to their immigrant status, I’d trust the majority of immigrants I’ve encountered to be compassionate and fair jurors.

    • Rango

      I find immigrants to be more racist, sexist and homophobic than Californians. Especially those who come from places where they are subjected to religious brainwashing, including peasant areas of Latin American, as well as India and Muslim countries.

      Americans come to California because it is liberal, but the foreign migrants don’t come here for the liberalism and largely don’t appreciate social liberalism.

      • Mjhmjh

        Rango, your xenophobic generalizations concerning the views of immigrants rather negate your implication that those of Californians are more enlightened..

        • Rango

          It’s not xenophobic — I have no fear of foreigners. My views are based on direct experience with foreigners, listening to what they say, as well as foreign travel.

          Slandering a person as “xenophobic” does not reduce the truth of what they say.

          You are using an Ad hominem attack, which shows intellectual laziness.

          The importation of conservative foreigners who hate liberals is itself illiberal.

          • Candis Meetra Dastmalchi

            Wow, you really are demented. You talk about people in other countries being brainwashed? You’re obviously a Glenn Beck drone

          • Rango

            A mindless ad hominem attack, which doesn’t reduce the truth of what I’ve said.

  • Rango

    This cannot possibly be constitutional.
    Anyway, can I go to Mexico or Russia and serve on a jury? I doubt it.
    And what is the practical NEED for this change? It sounds like pandering to ethnic groups to get their votes. It’s shameful.
    There is no shortage of jurors. I’ve only once been called to join a jury and I didn’t have to go in. If there had been a shortage, I would have been called many times, logically.
    Foreign people who are unhappy about being in the USA could be biased against American defendants.

  • geraldfnord

    People subject to our laws and competent to their application should play as much a part in our legal system ad possible.

    Joke: Is jury duty yet another job Americans won’t do?

    • Rango

      Should they? Making a statement is not the same as making a justified argument.

    • Mjhmjh

      I think your second suggestion might be the case. Certainly, I’ve been surprised at Americans’ lack of enthusiasm for jury duty. Groans and efforts to avoid serving seem to be the most common response to The Call. Where I come from, most people were rather pleased, and even excited, when they received one!

      Moreover, each of my four family members has received multiple calls to jury service, for which we are ineligible because we’re not (yet) citizens.

  • Candis Meetra Dastmalchi

    While I agree with the expansion of impartiality in terms of representation of our ever increasingly diverse population, my reservation rests on the fact that a Naturalized citizen takes an oath as an American. This implies a deeper commitment to our legal values than someone who has not yet become a citizen and made a formal commitment to our national ideology. Upholding the spirit of our legal system is a responsibility of a juror, I think preserving that dynamic does not include having non citizens serve on juries.
    Also, would a defendant have the right to request an all citizen jury?

  • Mjhmjh

    I’m a long-time green card holder and have dragged my feet over the citizenship application. I’m currently disenfranchised – both here and in my home country. Being allowed to vote is one of my principal incentives to apply for citizenship. So although this change in the law would delight me, it would make me less inclined to proceed with the application. (I don’t know whether Americans would consider this to be a good or a bad thing!)

  • Ivan

    Assemblyman Chavez’s argument that non citizen’s culture or traditions could be such that they cannot serve as jurors assumes that those differences do not exists in the US. Someone who recently relocated from another State should be band from being a juror? This is about political rights, not about attitude or cultural background. Residents are active community members and are invested in making sure law is applied with fairness.

    • Rango

      The assumption that foreign migrants are active in society is unfounded. There are many 1st generation migrants who prefer to exist in a cultural bubble, as if they never landed in America. They go to their ethnic group’s restaurants, speak their native language at home, go to their group’s festivals and see Americans as strangers to be suspicious of. The worst migrants even tell their kids not to marry Americans outside of their ethnic or religious groups. You want such people to be jurors?

      • SFreader

        Please consider befriending at least a couple of 1st generation immigrants, such as myself. We may just blow your mind.

        • Rango

          I’m not saying that 100% of 1st gen migrants are disgruntled cultural separatists, but you have to admit there is tendency in that direction, and that the hope that 1st gen migrants are open-minded is not sufficient justification for letting these non-citizens onto juries.

          • SFreader

            Based on my experience of serving on jury duty (I am a naturalized citizen), the vetting process during the jury selection will weed out close-minded separatists, both immigrants and Americans, if that profile doesn’t fit the agenda of attorneys.

          • Rango

            “if that profile doesn’t fit the agenda of attorneys.”

            Yeah, and if the attorneys want to stack the jury with non-citizens who come from XYZ country that is really backward, and who are consequently anti-gay, anti-America, pro-honor-killing, anti-atheist, anti-Jew or whatever, they would be able to.

  • carlboygenius / san francisco

    I don’t have a strong opinion on this issue. • But why does this idea smack of importing people for jury duty? • Jury duty is one obligation of citizenship. Jury duty is often inconvenient & unpleasant. Is this just another example of Americans wanting to outsource unpleasant work?

    Carl Becker
    San Francisco

  • TrainedHistorian

    The woman with a legal immigrant lawyer husband who says it “makes no sense” that he cannot be a juror needs to think things through. A lawyer is by definition impartial. Unlike a juror a lawyer’s not SUPPOSED to be impartial;. S/he is an advocate (the word used for lawyer in many languages). That is why a non-citizen lawyer is not remotely comparable to a non-citizen juror. If her husband wants to be on a jury: he should become a citizen! Same to other legal residents who want to be on juries. Unlike illegal / “undocumented” immigrants, most legal residents are readily eligible to become citizens. The tests that they have to pass to get citizenship is one way of insuring that they have some education about the US constitutional system, the legal residency requirement is the way we insure experience in the US, and the oath of loyalty is a way of insuring their commitment to US legal and constitutional norms, which, since they began as citizens of other countries, they need to make.

  • Tracy Loy

    The answer isn’t as simple as yes or no and I agree with both of the guests. There are definitely some non-citizens that should be allowed to serve on juries. For example, my husband who understands US laws and norms and has been in California for the past 20 years would be a great juror. On the other hand someone who has only been in the country for 6 months and has comes from a country with completely different laws and norms would not make a good juror. Perhaps the answer is for the Bill to include a length of residence in the US of 10 years.

    • TrainedHistorian

      If he wants to be a juror, he should make to effort to apply for citizenship. And the politicians need to leave this issue alone. their move to get non-citizens on juries only serves to further undermine the concept of citizenshipon on which our legal and constitutional system entirely hangs.

  • Keli

    Reaction to “permanent residents come from different cultures and might see different crimes differently, example: domestic violence”

    Born and raised outside of the US, having been permanent resident for the past 3 years. I’ll be eligible to become a citizen in 2 years. I might have come from different culture with different values than the US culture.
    Becoming a US citizen will not automatically change my past. It will not change the culture I come from nor will it change the values I believe in.
    Therefore, I don’t see a difference between permanent resident and a naturalized citizen, they both have to deliberate based on the law and forget about their culture or values to serve the justice.

    • TrainedHistorian

      And I do very much see the difference between a legal resident willing to commit themselves to citizenship by taking a test that requires some basic knowledge about US constitution, and an oath of loyalty to same, and a legal resident who will not make that commitment., In other words, the issue is more one about principles than the possibility of bias per se..

      Citizens most definitely should NOT have to be judged by those who will not make the commitment necessary to become citizens.

      • Keli

        I see your point TH and very strongly agree that it’s about one’s principles. I also agree there’s a huge difference between a legal resident willing to commit themselves to citizenship and a permanent resident who’s company relocated him for couple years. That was not my point tho.

        I think the system that works and is not broken should not be touched. I personally don’t see any incentive from letting permanent resident to be part of jury.

        Becoming a citizen is for sure difficult decision and huge commitment to the country. I want new US citizens to be “rewarded” by being eligible to vote and become a juror 🙂

  • Bobwlii

    It is only right that Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) should be permitted to perform jury duty. A lot of them have served honorably in the US military. A large number have died. They live in our communities, their children attend the local schools. A lot of the women form the backbone of quite a few community organizations. Some of them come from countries that pay only lip service to the rule of law. They have a real understanding of the importance of due process and the rule of law.

    It is disengenious to claim that because some suffer domestic violence they cannot be impartial. Remember Reps Canter and Ryan tried to pass a bill that excludes undocumented and Native American women from the protection of federal laws prohibiting domestic violence! One news article noted that there was an uptick in attempted rapes targeting foreign born women during the period it was being discussed. Not saying there was cause and effect. But, it sent a message that all women would be protected.

    Finally, several studies have shown a substantial number of native born US citizens are unable to pass the citizenship test that the US requires all citizen ship applicants to pass.

    Gov. Brown should sign the bill.

    • TrainedHistorian

      No, it is only right that citizens be judged by those who are also committed to being a citizens. Most legal residents (unlike non-legal/undocumented) are readily eligible to be citizens, so if they want to be on juries they can take the steps to become citizen. Besides residency of a few years, this requires passing a test showing some knowledge of our legal and constitutional system, and an oath of loyalty to same. This is important, because unlike with those already citizens, they once had loyalty to another country.

      Yes, some citizens cannot remember what they were supposed to learn in school about our legal and constitutional system as well as a legal resident who just prepped for the US citizenship exam. But that only highlights the importance of such a requirement for citizenship in the first place. Since at some point most native-born citizens were legally required to learn about our legal and constitutional system in US schools, it is fair to require legal residents who want the privileges of citizenship (like being on juries) to also learn about same.

  • Ali jones

    Several points here: That a guest would compare the issue of enabliing a “jury of one’s peers” to the tragic events in Syria is simply shameful.

    Second, were he to be prospected for a crime both he (and his lawyers) would demand a jury of his peers.

    It wreaks of hypocrisy. Lets hope the voters are wise to this and cast their votes accordingly.

    Ali Kennedy Jones

  • Bob Fry

    Meanwhile, every juror in the US is currently lied to by judges. Jurors DO have a right and obligation to judge the law as well as the facts in question. Google Fully Informed Jury Association.

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